This report provides the latest status of Japanese consumption, regulation, public perception, research and production of biotech crops.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number: JA1039
Agricultural Biotechnology Annual
Biotechnology Annual Report 2011
This report provides the latest status of Japanese consumption, regulation, public perception, research
and production of biotech crops.
Section I. Executive Summary:
Japan remains the world?s largest per capita importer of foods and feeds that have been produced using
modern biotechnology. Annually Japan imports about 16 million metric tons of corn and four million
metric tons of soybeans, approximately three quarters of which are produced through biotechnology.
Japan also imports billions of dollars worth of processed foods that contain biotech-derived oils, sugars,
yeasts, enzymes, and other ingredients.
The biotech regulations in Japan are science-based and transparent, and new events are generally
reviewed and approved within acceptable time periods that mostly align with industry expectation. To
date, over 130 events have been approved for food use. GOJ completed the review of 44 events last
year, a strong indication that the regulatory system is, in fact, functioning. However, assuming an
increase over the next decade in the number and types of biotech events released to the market, the
overall approval speed in Japan may become significantly slower. As with other regulatory systems
around the world, Japan?s biotech review system contains some points which can be improved. As one
of the world?s largest per capita importers of biotech crops, the improvement of biotech regulatory
system, focused on long-term trends in biotechnology, will benefit all stakeholders.
So far, over 95 events in 7 crops have been approved for environmental release, which includes
cultivation. However, the biotech rose released by Suntory in 2009 is the only biotech crop
commercially cultivated in Japan. So far, there is no commercial cultivation of biotech food crop in
Section II. Plant Biotechnology Trade and Production:
Japan imports 16 million metric ton (MMT) of corn annually exclusively from the United States. Of
those 16 MMT of corn, 4 million metric ton of corn is for food use. Prior to the increase in grain prices
in CY2008, most food corn imported into Japan was non-biotech, which is more expensive than non-
segregated corn, which is practically all biotech. These spikes forced Japanese food manufacturer to
switch to cost-effective biotech corn since manufacturers were loathe to pass along higher prices to
consumers. Much to surprise of industry watchers, there was no significant media attention or anti-
consumer reaction to the introduction of biotech corn to Japanese food industry. The use of biotech food
corn has increased by almost 50 percent, but has not replaced the use of costly non-biotech corn. One of
the reasons that non-biotech corn still holds the majority share of the market is that that major
manufacturers of ?happoshu?, aka ?third category beer? or low malt beer which is a beer-like drink
brewed with non-malt material, still insist on using non-biotech corn. All four major ?happoshu?
manufacturers in Japan claim that they are using non-biotech corn in their websites, possibly out of fear
of consumer rejection.
In Japan, three types of biotech claims may be made with regard to food; 1) Non-GMO, 2) GMO, and
3) non-segregated. To make labeling claims about foods or ingredients in the first category, the
commodities must be handled under an identity preservation (IP) system and segregated from biotech
commodities. Also, comingling of biotech products (which must also be approved by the Japanese
regulatory authorities) must be less than 5% by volume in order to make the claim that the product is
'non-GMO'. ?GMO? products must be labeled as such. Lastly, products in the ?GMO non-segregated?
category are ones in which identity was not preserved though the distribution channel, and therefore
assumed to be primarily derived from biotech varieties. Manufacturers using non-segregated
ingredients in processed products in many instances are not required to label under Japanese rules, but
may do so voluntarily.
The use of ?non-segregated? ingredients has been widespread for several years, and industry sources
report very few recent inquiries from consumers regarding the use of this term.
Source Biotech Processed product (ingredient) Examples of final processed
Crop from biotech crop products
Corn Corn oil processed seafood, dressing, oil.
Corn starch ice-cream, chocolate, cakes, frozen
Dextrin bean snacks
Starch syrup candy, cooked bans, jelly, condiments,
Hydrolyzed protein potato chips
Soybean Soy sauce dressing, rice crackers
Soybean sprout Supplements
Margarine snacks, supplements
Hydrolyzed protein pre-cooked eggs, past, beef jerky,
Canola Canola oil fried snacks, chocolate, mayonnaise
Source: Modified from the Nikkei Biotechnology Annual, 2009
Despite the widespread use of biotech ingredients, manufacturers and retailers still report a consumer
bias against their use. A good example is the Japanese Consumers? Co-operative Union, a co-op
organization with 25 million members and 346 billion yen ($3.5 billion) in sales. JCCU frequently uses
biotech/non-segregated ingredients in their store brands and identifies that fact on the product?s
ingredient label (JA9046). In a current catalog JCCU
(http://jccu.coop/eng/jccu/summary.php) provided an explanation of why they use biotech ingredients,
focusing on the difficulties of segregating products during distribution. The coop claims that it chooses
non-biotech ingredients whenever possible and gives several reasons the organization is opposed to the
use of biotech crops, including the novelty of the technology, unspecified possible negative effects to
the environment, and economic concentration in the commercial seed industry.
At the same time, CO-OP has increased the number of product offerings which use biotech ingredients,
and applies the label of ?non-segregated? to products even when there is no legal requirement of
labeling. In general, the majority of processed foods contain non-segregated (i.e., biotech) ingredients
amongst their major ingredients (more than 5% of the product) and/or minor ingredient (less than 5% of
product). In recent catalog of CO-OP issued on July 7, 2011, approximately 40 % of processed
products contained some form of ingredient from biotech crops, most likely corn and/or soybean.
Figure; The mark in red square indicates ?major ingredient(s) of the product (5% or more in weight) may be GMO
Figure; The mark in red square indicates ?minor ingredient(s) of the product (less than 5%) may be GMO non-
segregated? (left) and ?the sauce may contain GMO non-segregated ingredient? (right).
As an example, CO-OP offers a frozen chicken rice package which contains non-segregated corn. In
past there were processed products containing biotech ingredient, however, never in the original form of
corn or soybean. This chicken rice from CO-OP contains intact kernels of biotech corn, which may
possibly be a first in Japan. The use of biotech soybeans for food has historically been primarily used
for cooking oil. There is some biotech (non-segregated) soybean protein in processed food, however,
the consumption in the form of whole biotech soybean has not been found yet.
Figure; CO-OP?s frozen food (chicken rice). Underlined section describes that ?corn (GMO non-segregated).
CO-OP sells its own brand of salad dressings (figure below). More than 10 types of dressing are sold,
and all of them use the labeling of ?GMO-non segregated? for oil ingredients. Vegetable oil is not
subject to mandatory labeling for biotech, and the manufacturer is obviously using the label as a cost-
saving strategy. Nonetheless, the general willingness of the retailer and manufacturer to use the label is
indicative of a broad shift in thinking regarding biotech derived food products.
CO-OP sells at least 45 products with ?GMO non-segregated? label (Nikkei Biotechnology Annual,
2011). The benefit of using ?GMO-non segregated? ingredients is reflected directly in the price of the
product; margarine (320g) with ?non-GMO? was 260 Japanese Yen (JY) but similar product with ?GMO
non-segregated was 218 JY, 20% cheaper.
Figure; CO-OP?s private brand salad dressing. Underlined section indicates ?canola oil (GMO-non-segregated)
AEON (http://www.aeon.info/en/) is one of major retailers in Japan with capital stock of 199,054
million yen and operates more than 10,000 retail stores of various formats in Japan and other Asian
countries. AEON is also ?proactive? in the consumer education for the use of biotech origin ingredient.
For instance, even though there is no legal requirement, AEON uses voluntary label of vegetable oil,
e.g., soybean (biotech).
Among the inventory of AEON?s private brand ?Top Value?, the use of biotech ingredients has
increased over the past several years. Among AEON?s inventory, 51 products had the label of ?GMO
non-segregated?. Some products contain non-segregated materials other than oil. The example shown
below is a mixed snack package. Some snacks use hydrolyzed protein from non-segregated soybean and
corn starch from non-segregated corn.
Figure; AEON?s mixed snack packet. The underlined section of the label explains that ?corn starch, soybean oil, and
hydrolyzed soy protein are non-segregated ingredients?.
The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake did not change the status of Japan as the largest export market for
U.S. corn, expected to import over 16 million metric tons in the coming crop year. Feed use accounts
for about 75% of Japan?s corn consumption, and presumably all feed-use corn contains biotech varieties
(roughly 80% of all U.S. corn is biotech). There is quite limited non-biotech feed corn demand for
specific non-biotech fed dairy market. ?Concerned? consumer groups and some members of CO-OP are
potential customers of such specialized products. The earthquake, however, disrupted port, storage, and
processed feed manufacturing facilities, as well as distribution channels. Before the earthquake, feed
manufacturers produced various types of feed based on the demand of customers. However the
circumstance after the earthquake forced feed manufacturers to limit inventory. On April 7, 2011,
Seikatsu Club, a branch of CO-OP with 350,000 members, announced that they were unable to offer
?non-GMO? feed from contracted feed manufacturers, and instead only sold ?GMO non-segregated?
material (http://www.seikatsuclub.coop/coop/news/20110407.html). It wasn?t until June 29, 2011, that
Seikatsu Club announced that the ?non GMO? feed supply had been partially resumed
There is a separate market for food-use corn in Japan, which until 2008 was exclusively, ?Non-GMO.?
Due to high premiums for segregated ?Non-GMO? corn and a lack of end-user opposition to biotech
ingredients, demand for ?Non-GMO? food use corn has been declining. Industry sources estimate that a
quarter of imported food corn (approximately 4 mmt total) was either biotech or non-segregated in
CY2008. In CY2009, the proportion of biotech and non-segregated categories in imported food corn
rose to approximately 40 %, based on industry information. That proportion has held steady in CY2010.
Though most food corn in biotech or non-segregated category is still consumed in food that does not
require labeling under Japanese law (e.g. starch, sweeteners, etc.), the non-segregated category has
begun to be used more widely, despite mandatory labeling requirement (see Processed Products).
Japanese Corn Imports
(1,000 MT ? CY 2010)
Corn for feed
United States 9,282
Total Feed 10,619
Corn for food, starch, manufacturing
United States 5,098
South Africa 10
Total Food & Other 5,578
Source: Ministry of Finance
The second most heavily traded biotech crop is soybeans, which are used for oil, food, and feed. The
meal from soybean crushing is used for both animal feed and further processed into such products as
soy protein and soy sauce. Traditionally Japan has imported roughly four million tons of soybeans
annually; however demand for soybean has been declining in recent years due to high prices. Japanese
soybean imports in FY2010 were 3.5 MMT, of which the United States commanded a 71 percent
market share. Oil derived from commodity biotech soy may be sold without a ?GMO? label and
historically has never encountered any consumer resistance. However, Japan?s biotech labeling rules
do require a number of other biotech soy-based foods to be labeled, including natto and tofu. ?Non-
GMO? soybean users are concerned about increasing premiums for segregated ?Non-GMO? soybeans.
Excluding soybean oil, food use of ?non-segregated? (i.e., biotech) soybeans is only believed to be
several hundred thousand tons and is so far limited to products not subject to mandatory labeling (e.g.,
soy sauce). Last year, however, some food manufacturers started to use non-segregated soybean in a
limited number of processed foods (see Processed Products), most likely to reduce the costs. At the
same time, the strong Yen to Dollars exchange rate allows Japanese food manufacturers to pay the
premium for non-biotech over non-segregated commodities.
The acceptance of biotech soybeans is especially low in foods for direct consumption, such as tofu and
natto. As domestic production (all non-biotech) supplies only 5 % of total demand, Japanese grain
trading houses are expanding contracts for non-biotech soybean production with overseas growers. In
addition to Kanematsu?s contract for non-biotech soybean production in Canada (as reported in last
report JA0025), Marubeni Corporation (http://www.marubeni.com/) cooperates with a Chinese grain
trader for the production of non-biotech soybean in Brazil (Issue Brief, #686, 2010). Mitsui & Co., Ltd
(http://www.mitsui.com/jp/en/index.html) also strengthened the contracted production of non-biotech
soybeans in Brazil. Hanamaruki (http://www.hanamaruki.co.jp/guide/guide.html), a major miso
manufacturer, has been sourcing non-biotech soybeans from Brazil for miso ingredients since the
company is having a hard time securing a stable supply of non-biotech soybeans from the United States
(Shino-Mainichi, Mary 12, 2010). Furthermore, local food retailers, tofu manufacturers, and
consumers in Gifu Prefecture started the corporation GIALINKS (http://www.gialinks.jp/) to import
non-biotech soybeans for local tofu production. GIALINKS makes contracts with Japanese immigrant
farmers in Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil and Peru.
Industry sources suggest that the limited choices of varieties of biotech soybeans for direct food
consumption could be one of the reasons for slow consumer acceptance of the product. Current biotech
varieties are bred for higher oil content, which is useful for crushing, but not for food. So, the
introduction of biotech soy intended for the food market may result in greater consumer acceptance.
However, the reluctance of the Japanese consumer to embrace modern agricultural technology will
discourage technology providers from developing biotech soybean suitable for direct food consumption
for Japan for the foreseeable future.
The movement of Japan?s food industry to source non-biotech ingredients is observed in corn as well.
Zen-Noh (National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Association, http://www.zennoh.or.jp) has
been buying non-biotech corn on a contract basis from U.S. growers. In order to realize some security
in the supply situation, Zen-Noh contracted with Pioneer Hi-Bred to make non-biotech corn seed
commercially available through CY 2016. Non-biotech corn seed will be used and planted by
American corn growers who contract with Zen-Noh. Zen-Noh estimates that 50 MMT of non-biotech
corn will be supplied annually for the next five year through the current contract
What level of GMO market acceptance has ? been achieved?
It is common wisdom that Japanese consumers are uneasy about biotech crops and, for over a decade,
this understanding of consumer views has been reflected in government regulations, including labeling
rules. Nonetheless, the fact remains that Japan is the world's largest per capita importer of biotech
crops. Further upstream from consumers, there has been a shift toward biotech ingredients for
processed foods that do not require labeling under Japan?s laws. A recent study by the Asian Food
Information Centre also shows that only 2% of Japanese consumers spontaneously mentioned ?GM
food? as a concern. It is clearly difficult to gauge the true depth of consumer apprehension towards
biotech foods and, perhaps more importantly, the implications for actual purchasing behavior. Still,
with the very few exceptions, consumer-ready food products explicitly labeled as ?GMO? are not yet
carried by retailers in Japan.
With a few minor exceptions, there is still no commercial production of biotech food crops in Japan. In
the past a handful of pioneering farmers have grown biotech soybeans, but the ?experiments? were
terminated before the crop flowered due to concerns from surrounding farmers about cross pollination,
and opposition from a powerful agricultural cooperatives. In addition, there are also numerous local
government restrictions on growing biotech crops in Japan that further discourage farmers from using
the technology (see Regulation).
Though they are not for food use, there are a limited number of cases of biotech plant cultivation for
high value products for the pharmaceutical industry. National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science
and Technology (AIST, http://www.aist.go.jp/) built 291 square meters (3132 sq feet) of ?Closed-type
transgenic plant production system?. The system is a completely closed environment and separated
from the outside. Plants are grown in a hydroponic system, and nutrition is 99% recycled. Biotech
strawberries are grown in the facility to produce interferon, which treats canine periodontal disease.
Interferon production by biotech strawberries is more cost effective than conventional production with
transgenic microorganisms. This is a potentially large market, as it is estimated that nearly 80 percent of
the eight million dogs in Japan suffers from periodontal disease. The extraction and purification process
of interferon is simpler in biotech strawberries since it is a food crop. Therefore production costs could
be as much as 10% lower than costs associated with conventional production methods.
Figure; Closed-type transgenic plant production system for production of plant-made pharmaceuticals (National
Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology,
Though it is not plant but animal, two varieties of biotech silkworm developed by National Institute of
Agricultural Science (NIAS, http://www.nias.affrc.go.jp/index_e.html) have been grown by six farmers
in Gunma Prefecture. The biotech silkworm is modified to produce ?protein A?, a protein used for
medical diagnostic agents (see Section VI. Animal Biotechnology).
A Japanese company has developed a few ornamental flowers, carnation and roses, that have been
genetically engineered for color. Suntory, a major beer brewery and liquor manufacturer, and Florigene,
a biotech company in Australia under Suntory?s management, developed a color altered carnation in
1995, which they started to sell in Japan in 1997. The biotech carnation was grown in Colombia and
exported to Japan and other countries. In 2009, Suntory started producing another biotech ornamental
plant, the "blue rose". This flower is grown domestically, making it Japan?s first domestically produced
biotech crop. Ironically, all four major beer breweries in Japan, including Suntory, pledged that they
would only use non-biotech corn for their beer and low-malt beer, or happou-shu, which uses corn
starch (see Processed Products).
Figure; Moondust, Suntory?s biotech carnation (http://www.moondust.co.jp/)
Figure: Suntory's biotech blue rose, Japanese first domestically produce biotech crop
Section III. Plant Biotechnology Policy:
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) is responsible for the food safety of biotech
products, while the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) is responsible for feed and
environmental safety. The Food Safety Commission (FSC) is an independent risk assessment body that
performs food and feed safety risk assessments for MHLW and MAFF.
Type of Examining Jurisdiction Legal Basis Main Points Considered
Safety as Food Safety Cabinet Office Basic Law on Food ? Safety of host plants, genes
food Commission Safety used in the modification, and
? Safety of proteins produced as
a result of genetic
? Potential for unexpected
transformations as the result
of genetic modification
? Potential for significant
changes in the nutrient
content of food
Safety as Agricultural Ministry of Law Concerning the ? Any significant changes in
animal feed Materials Agriculture, Safety and Quality feed use compared with
Council Forestry, and Improvement of Feed existing traditional crops
Fisheries (the Feed Safety Law)
? Potential for the production of
toxic substances (especially
with regard to interactions
between the transformation
and the metabolic system of
Impact on Biodiversity Ministry of Law Concerning ? Competitive superiority
biodiversity Impact Agriculture, Securing of Biological
Assessment Forestry, and Diversity (Regulation of ? Potential production of toxic
Group Fisheries the Use of Genetically substances
Ministry of the Modified Organisms)
Environment ? Cross-pollination
In Japan, the commercialization of biotech plant products requires food, feed and environmental
approvals. Four ministries are involved in the regulatory framework; MAFF, MHLW, The Ministry of
Environment (MOE), and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
(MEXT). These ministries are also involved in environmental protection and regulating lab trials. The
FSC, an independent risk assessment body, performs food and feed safety risk assessment for MHLW
Risk assessments and safety evaluations are performed by advisory committees and scientific expert
panels which primarily consist of researchers, academics, and representatives from public research
institutions. The decisions by the expert panels are reviewed by the advisory committees whose
members include technical experts and opinion leaders from a broad scope of interested parties such as
consumers and industry. The advisory committees report their findings and recommendations to the
responsible ministries. The minister of each ministry then the typically approves the product.
Biotech plants that are used for food must obtain food safety approvals from the MHLW Minister.
Based on the Food Sanitation Law, upon receiving a petition for review from an interested party
(usually a biotech company), the MHLW minister will request the FSC to conduct a food safety
review. The FSC is an independent government organization under the Cabinet Office that was
established in order to perform food safety risk assessments using expert committees. Within the FSC
there is a ?Genetically Modified Foods Expert Committee,? consisting of scientists from universities
and public research institutes. The Expert Committee conducts the actual scientific review. Upon
completion, the FSC provides its risk assessment conclusions to the MHLW Minister. The FSC has
published standards (http://www.fsc.go.jp/senmon/idensi/gm_kijun_english.pdf) in English for its food
risk assessments of biotech foods.
Biotech products that are used as feed must, under the Feed Safety Law, obtain approvals from the
MAFF Minister. Based on a petitioner?s request, MAFF asks the Expert Panel on Recombinant DNA
Organisms, which is part of the MAFF affiliated Agricultural Materials Committee (AMC), to review
the biotech feed. The Expert Panel evaluates feed safety for livestock animals and their evaluation is
then reviewed by the AMC. The MAFF Minister also asks the FSC Genetically Modified Foods Expert
Committee to review any possible human health effects from consuming livestock products from
animals that have been fed the biotech product under review. Based on the reviews of AMC and FSC,
the MAFF Minister approves the feed safety of the biotech events.
Japan ratified the Biosafety Protocol in 2003. To implement the Protocol, in 2004, Japan adopted the
?Law Concerning the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity through Regulations on
the Use of Living Modified Organisms?
(http://www.bch.biodic.go.jp/download/en_law/en_regulation.doc) also called the ?Cartagena Law?.
Under the law, MEXT requires minister-level approval before performing early stage agricultural
biotech experiments in laboratories and greenhouses. MAFF and MOE require joint approvals for the
use of biotech plants in greenhouses or labs as part of their influence on biodiversity. After the
necessary scientific data are collected through the isolated field experiments, with permission from the
MAFF and MOE Ministers, an environmental risk assessment for the event will be conducted that
includes field trials. A joint MAFF and MOE expert panel carries out the environmental safety
evaluations. Finally, biotech products that require new standards or regulations not related to food
safety, such as labeling or new risk management procedures (including IP handling protocols and
detection method) may be addressed by Food Labeling Division of the Consumer Affairs Agency. The
Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) was established on September 1, 2010, with the objective of
protecting and enhancing consumer rights. Consequently, food labeling, including biotech labeling, has
fallen under the authority of CAA, though the criteria for biotech labeling (JAS Law) in Japan has not
changed. Biotech labeling was formally handled by MAFF and MHLW.
The following is a schematic chart of the flow of the approval process.
Expert Panel1): Expert Panel on Recombinant DNA Technology, Bioethics and Biosafety Commission, Council for Science and
Expert Panel2): Experts with special knowledge and experience concerning adverse effect on biological diversity selected by
Expert Panel3): Genetically Modified Foods Expert Committee, FSC
Expert Panel4): Expert Panel on Recombinant DNA Organisms, Agricultural Materials Council, MAFF
Committee1): Food Safety Commission
Committee2): Feed Committee, Agricultural Materials Council, MAFF
Subcommittee1): Safety Subcommittee, Feed Committee, Agricultural Materials Council, MAFF
Red (broken) arrow: Request for review or risk assessment
Blue (solid) arrow: Recommendation or risk assessment results (thick arrows: with public comment periods)
Numbers beside the arrows indicate the order of requests/recommendations within the respective ministries.
Stage 3 Trials
Currently, Japan does not grant separate approvals for importation (e.g., for food, feed and industrial
use) and for intentional release into the environment (e.g., planting as a commercial crop). As a result,
seed companies must conduct a field test in an isolated plot on domestic soil ? a so-called ?Stage 3 Field
Trial? (S3-FT). S3-FT is required for each biotech event, regardless of the fact that they will not be
commercially grown in Japan. Within the commercial industry, this policy is widely viewed as
unnecessary to protect Japanese biodiversity. It is also considered to be a costly aspect of Japan?s
regulatory system for biotech providers in terms of time, intellectual resources, and finances. Another
aspect for S3-FT is that the availability of resources, i.e., isolated field plots, is extremely limited. All
major technology providers either own their own fields for S3-FT, have secured long-term leases on
land. Japanese regulation requires detailed specification of the ?isolated field? for the trial, and
constantly monitors the management of the Stage 3 Trial. Therefore, only limited technology providers
can afford to use such facilities, and this requirement clearly creates a barrier to entry into this market
for many agricultural biotechnology providers. International standard-setting bodies for agricultural
biotechnology generally do not consider domestic field trials as a necessary step for food safety or
environmental risk assessment.
Japan requires separate environmental approvals for stacked events - those that combine two prior
approved traits, such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance, though existing data and information
on the parent lines may be used for the purpose of evaluation. It is generally unnecessary to carry out
field trials for stacked events.
For food safety approvals, a 2004 FSC opinion paper categorized biotech events into three groups:
1. Introduced genes which do not influence host metabolism, and mainly endow the host with
insect resistance, herbicide tolerance or virus resistance;
2. Introduced genes which alter host metabolism and endow the host with enhanced nutritional
component or suppression of cell wall degradation by promoting or inhibiting specific metabolic
3. Introduced genes which synthesize new metabolites not common to the original host plant.
The FSC requires a safety approval for a crossed event if the crossing occurs above the subspecies
level, or if the crossing involves biotech events in category 1. The FSC also requires safety approvals
on stacked events between those in category 1 if the amount consumed by humans, the edible part, or
processing method is different from that of the parent?s. The FSC also requires safety approvals on
stacked events between biotech events in categories 1 and 2, 1 and 3, 2 and 2, 3 and 3, and 2 and 3.
On July 21, 2011, the FSC proposed a new scheme regarding the review of stacked events.
(http://www.fsc.go.jp/fsciis/meetingMaterial/show/kai20110721sfc). The new scheme is designed to o
review ?1 x 1? stacked events without deliberation in the Novel Foods (Genetically Modified Foods)
likely that proposal was based on the FSC?s confidence that enough knowledge and experience in 1 x 1
stack reviews has been accumulated. It is too early to make a judgment about the efficiency gains of
the new evaluation system for 1 x 1 stacks.
For feed safety of stacked events, MAFF requires approvals from the Expert Panel on Recombinant
DNA Organisms of the Agricultural Material Committee (AMC). Unlike the full feed safety approvals,
the approvals by the Expert Panel are neither subject to MAFF Minister notification nor public
A 2004 guideline issued by MAFF requires that before a field trial can be undertaken, detailed
information on the trial must be made public through web pages and meetings with local residents.
MAFF also requires the establishment of buffer zones in order to prevent related plant species in the
surrounding environment from cross-pollinating.
Name of the field tested Minimum isolation distance
Rice 30 meters
Soybeans 10 meters
Corn (applicable only on 600 meters, or 300 meters with the presence of a windbreak
those with food and feed
Rapeseed (applicable only 600 meters, or 400 meters if non-recombinant rapeseed is planted to
on those with food and feed flower at the same time of the field tested rapeseed. A width of 1.5
safety approvals) meters surrounding field tested plants as a trap for pollens and
Biosafety Protocol Implementation (dealing with LMOs)
After ratifying the Biosafety Protocol in November 2003, Japan implemented the ?Law Concerning the
Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity through Regulations on the Use of Living
Modified Organisms?. This and other laws implementing the protocol may be found on the
(http://www.bch.biodic.go.jp/) Japan Biosafety Clearing House (J-BCH) website.
The tenth Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention on Bio Diversity (CBD,
http://www.env.go.jp/en/focus/070215.html) took place in Nagoya, Japan from October 18 to 29, 2010.
Prior to COP10, the fifth Member of the Party (MOP5) to the Cartagena Protocol also took place in
Nagoya from October 11 to 15, 2010. The main issue at that meeting was the implementation of
Biosafety Protocol article 18.2.a (documentation and compliance enforcement) and article 27 (Liability
and Redress). Japan?s support of a non-binding approach to Liability and Redress in the Biosafety
Protocol negotiations demonstrated positive leadership on this issue. However, the discussions among
members regarding provisions on Access and Benefit Sharing (COP10), Liability and Redress (MOP5),
and Risk Assessment (MOP5) were some of the more contentious topics discussed. Of greatest concern
to technology providers and the grain industry was the discussion around the broad implications and
applications of Article 27 of the Cartagena Protocol, which deals with Liability and Redress. That
discussion was not concluded in the COP10. Though members agreed to finalize the content and text
within four years after MOP1, which held on January 2004, party members are stuck on a discussion of
how this article should be interpreted and implemented. The discussion during the last Friends of Chair
meeting in Malaysia centered on: (1) Scope of operations; (2) Inclusion of imminent threat of damage;
(3) Inclusion of processed products from LMOs; (4) Mandatory financial subsidy for operators and; (5)
the relationship between domestic laws with ?Civil Liability?. These issues are complicated because
there are significant differences between developed and developing countries, as well as different
viewpoints and interests between biotech product exporting and importing countries. The gap between
parties of different interest remained significant until last minutes of the fourth Friends of Co-Chair
Meeting, which was held in the days preceding the MOP5. Finally in the predawn hours of October 11,
2011, an agreement on language was reached, just hours before the start of the MOP5.
The agreements in both COP10 (Nagoya Protocol) and COPMOP5 (Nagoya ? Kuala Lumpur
Supplementary Protocol) was a tremendous achievement, exceeding general expectations. However, a
path to future will not be easy. Though agreement was made in COPMOP5, actual implementation will
depend on the domestic law of each member country. The definition of ?risk? from LMOs and related
regulations vary widely varies from state to state. Furthermore, some countries do not have sufficient
resource to establish functioning regulatory and governing bodies. Therefore, capacity building in
developing countries will be an important factor to decide the effectiveness of the Supplementary
Protocol in future.
Japan will not have technical difficulty in the area since the country joined the CBD in November 21,
2003 and enforced CBD based domestic laws on February 19, 2004. Even in area of Liability and
Redress, Japan, as the world?s largest LMO importing country per capita, has handled the issue based
on Advanced Informed Agreement, which is defined in Article 8 and agreed among the member states.
As Japan holds the CBD chairmanship until 2012, Japan is actively involved in capacity building and
technology transfer to developing countries (Nikkei, December 15, 2010). This implies that Japan will
directly and indirectly affect biotechnology law, regulations, and cultivation practices in African and
Asian developing countries.
The Nagoya Protocol became open for signature by Parties to the Convention from February 2, 2011
and will remain open until February 1, 2012 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. On May
11, 2011, Japan with seven other countries sign Nagoya Protocol on biodiversity at the U.N.
headquarters in New York City. Nagoya ? Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and
Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was opened for signature on 7 March 2011 and will
remain open until 6 March 2012. The total number of signatures for the Supplementary Protocol to
date is 23. Both Protocols become effective 90 days after 50 countries and regions sign.
Approved Biotech Products
As of June, 2011, Japan has approved over 130 biotech events for food, 124 for feed and 95 for
environmental release, including commercial planting. Prior to the ratification of the Biosafety
Protocol in November 2003, Japan had approved 106 events for import, and 74 for planting. Those
approvals expired when the new legal framework under the Biosafety Protocol was introduced. All
products approved prior to the ratification of the Biosafety Protocol were subject to review and re-
approval. As of July 2011, biotech papaya from HPIA, is only the event still under the review and re-
Attachment A ? Approved commercial biotech traits.
Attachment B ? Approved biotech additives.
Path of Rainbow Papaya (55-1) to full approval in Japan
Rainbow papaya has been grown in Hawaii since 1999 to cope with papaya ringspot virus. Because of
the prevalence of the virus, papaya farmers have widely adopted the biotech variety. In 2009
approximately 77% of papaya grown in Hawaii is biotech.
The dossier for the risk assessment of Rainbow Papaya was submitted to GOJ on October 1999. On
July 2009, Food Safety Commission (FSC) finalized the risk assessment report and concluded that the
product was , ??unlikely to negatively affect human health?. The dossier was passed to the hands of
Consumer Affairs Agency for a decision on labeling (See Labeling section) and the establishment of a
detection method for processed products. The process of regulatory approval for Rainbow papaya is
October 29, 1999 Submission to Ministry of Heath and Welfare (former MHLW) and MAFF
July 1, 2003 Establishment of Food Safety Commission
August 18, 2004 Re-submission of the environmental safety review under Cartagena Law to MAFF/MOE.
October 6, 2005 First discussion in Expert Subcommittee group of MAFF/MOE
January 26, 2006 Re-submission to MHLW. Food safety review by FSC started.
February 27, 2006 First review by FSC?s GM Food Expert Group at 37th meeting.
March 17, 2008 Second review by the expert group at 60th meeting
May 19, 2009 Final review by the expert group at 70th meeting and safety approved.
May 28, 2009 Draft review report from FSC.
May 28 ? June 26, 2009 Public comment (one comment was sent).
July 9, 2009 Dossier was returned back to MHLW (risk management body)*.
September 1, 2009 Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) established. The authority of food labeling was transferred from
MHLW/MAFF to CAA.
September 3, 2009 Second discussion in Expert Subcommittee group of MAFF/MOE
January 26, 2010 Third discussion in Expert Subcommittee group of MAFF/MOE
February 19, 2010 Fourth discussion in Expert Subcommittee group of MAFF/MOE. Discussion in Expert Subcommittee
March 23, 2010 Discussion by Expert Group in CAA at First Meeting of Consumer Agency?s Food Labeling Committee.
The ?relevance? and scope of labeling for Rainbow papaya was discussed.
March 24, 2010 MAFF/MOE General Committee for Cartagena Law agreed for public comment
April 19 ? May 19, 2010* Public comment period for Type 1 Use permission (import and cultivation) under Cartagena Law by
MAFF/MOE. As three other events (a soybean and two corn events), most comments were not specific
to event but general about concern on the application of modern biotechnology to agricultural crops,
such as possible out-crossing with wild species. No wild plant in Japan can be crossed with papaya as
replied to the comment (http://www.bch.biodic.go.jp/download/lmo/public_comment/public42.pdf).
May 24, 2010 Discussion by Expert Group in CAA at Second Meeting of Consumer Agency?s Food Labeling
Committee. The members agreed on the labeling for papaya and the establishment of detection method
for processed products of papaya.
May 28-June 4, 2010 Inter-Ministerial discussion with MHLW based on Food Sanitation Law Article 65, Section 2-2.
May 28-Dec 7, 2010 Inter-Ministerial discussion with MAFF based on JAS Law Article 19, Section 13-5.
October 4, 2010 Discussion by Expert Group in CAA at Fourth Meeting of Consumer Agency?s Food Labeling
March 9, 2011 Discussion by Expert Group in CAA at 8th Meeting of Consumer Agency?s Food Labeling Committee.
Improvement in detection method was reported.
April 7 ? May 6, 2011 Consumer Affairs Agency held domestic public comment regarding the labeling of fresh and processed
products of biotech papaya.
April 14 ? June 13, 2011 Consumer Affairs Agency notified WTO-SPS for the labeling of fresh and processed products of
biotech papaya (G/SPS/N/JPN/276).
April 26 ? June 26, 2011 Consumer Affairs Agency notified WTO-TBT for the labeling of fresh and processed products of
biotech papaya (G/TBT/N/JPN/355).
July 27, 2011 Discussion by Expert Group in CAA at 12th Meeting of Consumer Agency?s Food Labeling
Committee. Committee members agreed on the proposal of biotech papaya labeling.
*Though technical discussion including public comment in environmental safety aspect has been completed and concluded
as the introduction of biotech papaya 55-1 into Japan will not create any significant effects to environment (i.e.,
biodiversity), full approval from MAFF/MOE as notification from GOJ will be issued after the completion of food safety
review which includes labeling issue.
CAA plans to issue official notification of biotech papaya labeling on September 1, 2011. CAA is, however, treading quite
carefully with the introduction the first consumer-ready biotech specialty crop in Japan. To avoid confusion in fresh
produce market and distributers in Japan, CAA is planning to have 3-month ?get-acquainted period? after the full approval
notification. Therefore, commercial exports to Japan will be allowed starting from December 1, 2011.
The case with Rainbow papaya highlighted an important issue that the GOJ and other countries will be
forced to deal with in the near future. Most other biotech events are submitted for approval by major
biotechnology providers based in the United States or Europe. However, the application for approval of
Rainbow papaya was submitted by a relatively small industry group, and as such, did not have the
resources or personnel needed to answer the many questions, and respond to the many requests for
additional data, from the GOJ. It is reasonable to expect that with the price of genome sequencing
coming down so significantly in recent years that many applications for novel biotech events in the
future will come from the public sector and smaller firms, who have fewer resources for application and
regulatory compliance. Biotech papaya 55-1 has already showed that the regulatory approval of GOJ
will require not only that the product?s development be well documented, but also have significant
resources to attain regulatory approval. If smaller firms and ventures start to petition for regulatory
approval, the current system will become further strained. Logically, if a developer considers the hurdle
to get regulatory approval of GOJ to be too high, they may simply ignore regulatory requirements,
creating the possibility of low level presence of unapproved events in the food supply. In fact, the
Chinese Government announced in November of 2009 that they are developing biotech rice and corn,
with the intention of wide-scale cultivation 2012 or 2013 (Bloomberg, December 1, 2009). Though
media reported that the progress of biotech corn in China slowed down (March 7, 2011, Reuters), as a
country that relies heavily on imported food, Japan may need to make significant investments in its
capacity to review and regulate new biotech events in the very near future.
In December 2010, biotech papaya with viral resistance was detected from papaya seedlings sold in a
local garden store in Okinawa Prefecture. The virus resistant papaya is a different strain than Rainbow
papaya (55-1), and suspected to be a locally developed PRSV resistant event from Taiwan which was
comingled with local conventional papaya variety, Tainoh #5. Tainoh #5 was developed in Taiwan as a
conventional cross in 1987, and has been sold in Japan since 2005. The unknown biotech papaya has
been found on the farms of local papaya growers in Okinawa.
Section IV. Plant Biotechnology Marketing Issues:
Approval in Japan is Important to U.S. Farmers
In a very real sense, Japanese regulators can act as a brake on the production technologies available to
U.S. farmers. Moreover, the presence of an unapproved biotech crop in shipments to Japan can lead to
costly export testing requirements and trade disruptions. To address this issue, the Biotechnology
Industry Organization's (BIO) (http://www.bio.org/foodag/stewardship/20070521.asp) Product Launch
Stewardship Policy calls for new biotech crops to be approved in Japan before they are commercialized
in the United States. Similarly, the National Corn Growers Association?s
(http://www.ncga.com/files/POLICYPOSITIONPAPER2-28-09.pdf) position on biotechnology states
biotech events must receive full approval by, ?Japanese regulatory agencies.?
The stewardship as above is possible only when the regulatory review system of the importing country
is practical and functioning. As indicated in the case of biotech papaya 55-1, the resources required for
regulatory approval are rather significant. JRC reported in 2009 that increasingly biotech crops will be
developed by countries other than the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Furthermore, the crops and traits to be
developed for commercial production will be increasingly varied and complex. If any of these non-
major players apply for regulatory review in Japan, the regulatory capacity in the country will have to be
increased significantly. Otherwise, product launches for new crops, and dissemination of new
technology to American farmers, will be severely slowed. If these new developers from emerging
countries will not seek the regulatory approval, Japan has to consider a strategy to deal with low level
presence of unapproved events in Japan.
Low Level Presence (LLP) of Unapproved Biotech Events
Japan has a zero tolerance for unapproved biotech events in food and environment, and it is explicitly
illegal to import biotech-derived foods that have not been approved, regardless of the amount, form, or
their known safety outside of Japan. For this reason, the Low Level Presence (LLP) of unapproved
biotech crops has the potential to disrupt agricultural trade with Japan. Since the late 1990?s potatoes
(NewLeaf), papayas (Rainbow), corn (StarLink, Bt10, E32) and rice (LL601) have all been subject to
testing or segregation, or have been temporarily banned. As of July 2011, there is no testing of potatoes
and corn since the presence of unapproved event was confirmed to be negligible or below detection
To assure compliance, monitoring is in place for both imported shipments and processed food products
at the retail level. As a part of the monitoring program for imported foods
(http://www.mhlw.go.jp/topics/yunyu/keikaku/dl/11_en.pdf), testing at ports is handled by MHLW
directly, while local health authorities handle testing for processed foods at the retail level. All testing is
performed according to sampling and testing criteria set by MHLW. If the detection is at the port, the
shipment must be re-exported or destroyed. If the detection is at the retail level, the manufacturer of the
product must issue an immediate recall.
MHLW Policy on LLP in food
In 2001, Japan began legally requiring safety assessments of biotech foods. This was done under the
broad authority contained in Article 11 of the (http://www.jetro.go.jp/en/market/regulations/pdf/food-
e.pdf) Food Sanitation Law.
1. ?Article 11 The minister of Health, Labour and Welfare, from the viewpoint of public health, may
establish standards of manufacturing, processing, using, preparing, or preserving food or food additives
intended for sale or may establish specifications for components of food or food additive intended for
sale, based upon the opinion of Pharmaceutical Affairs and Food Sanitation Council.
2. Where specifications or standards have been established pursuant to provisions of preceding
Paragraph, any person shall be prohibited from manufacturing, processing, using, preparing, or
preserving any food or food additive by a method not complying with established standards; or from
manufacturing, importing, processing, using, preparing, preserving, or selling any food or food additive
not complying with established specifications.?
The implementation of MHLW?s zero tolerance LLP policy is being done through Ministry of Health
and Welfare Announcement (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/topics/food/3-2.htm) that states:
Section A- "Standards Regarding Composition of Foods in General" of Part 1- "Foods":
3. When foods are all or part of organisms produced by recombinant DNA techniques, or include
organisms produced by recombinant DNA techniques either partially or entirely, such organisms shall
undergo examination procedure for safety assessment made by the Minister for Health and Welfare and
shall be announced to the public in the Official Gazette.
MHLW-mandated testing is currently being enforced for LL601 in bulk rice and some rice-containing
processed food products (such as French fries). Testing for other LLP corn events, such as StarLink,
Bt10 and Event 32, has been phased out by MHLW.
In the past, testing for LLP in Japan has been focused on bulk products (e.g., corn and rice) and
processed product manufactured by non-Japanese companies (e.g., rice noodle). In near future, Japan
and other countries could be forced to expand the scope of testing because of increasing number in
traits, crops and developers of biotech crops. JRC report, the number of biotech events commercially
grown in 2015 will be quadrupled from 2008 (http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC51799.pdf). Fifty percent of
biotech crops will be developed and released Asia and Latin America. Crops other than soybean, corn,
canola and cotton will take a third of newly developed crops entering market. As the application to
regulatory approval requires resource, asynchronous approval and/or lack of regulatory approval in
countries other than production countries may occur with growing frequency. . Global food
manufacturers, including Japanese firms, are diversifying their production facilities and supply source
of ingredients worldwide. When food manufacturers have facilities overseas, it would be increasingly
difficult to test all ingredients for manufacturers since the information system to notify of LLP
occurrence to stakeholders might not be transparent and systematic enough to prevent unapproved event
commingled into commercial distribution.
Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF) Policies on LLP in feed grain
Under the Feed Safety Law, MAFF monitors the quality and safety of imported feed ingredients at the
ports. All biotech derived plant materials to be used as feed in Japan must obtain approvals for feed
safety from MAFF. However, as an exemption, MAFF may set a 1% tolerance for the unintentional
commingling of biotech products in feed that are approved in other countries but not yet approved in
Japan. To apply the exemption, the exporting country must be recognized by the MAFF minister as
having a safety assessment program that is equivalent to or stricter than that of Japan. In practice,
MAFF would consult with its Experts Panel on Recombinant DNA Organisms on any decision
concerning a 1% exemption for feed.
On December 25, 2008, MAFF published a new risk management plan addressing the low level
presence of unapproved biotech feeds. MAFF believes the new risk management policy will help
prevent LLP incidents from happening, but also establishes procedures for when an LLP incident does
occur by providing a mechanism for ending testing requirements when they are no longer needed (e.g.,
Ministry of Environment (MOE) and MAFF Policies on LLP in environment
Japan?s environmental rules also have a zero tolerance for living modified organisms (LMOs) that are
unapproved. These rules are specific to planting seeds, and not relevant to products that are not
intended for release into the environment, such as feed grains.
In December 2010, an unknown biotech papaya with viral resistance was detected from papaya
seedlings sold at local DIY in Okinawa Prefecture. This particular papaya was incorporated with Papaya
Ringspot Virus resistance, and because of the strain, is known to be a variety developed in Taiwan, not
the Rainbow variety developed in Hawaii. Based on MAFF/MOE?s report on April 21, 2011, as much
as 20% of papaya plants grown in Okinawa could be unapproved papaya (in Japanese,
http://www.env.go.jp/press/press.php?serial=13703). Based on the guidance of MAFF/MOE, the
agricultural office of local governments have been advising growers in Okinawa and Miyazaki to check
papaya plants in field if they fit the characteristics of unapproved papaya
(http://www.town.nishihara.okinawa.jp/news/110610_13-news.html). As environmental release of
unapproved biotech event is against Biosafety Protocol, the unapproved papaya plants have to be cut
CODEX LLP Supported but Not Implemented
International guidelines on food safety assessments for the low-level presence of genetically modified
foods was adopted by the CODEX commission in July 2008 (as an Annex on Food Safety Assessment
in Situations of Low-Level Presence of Recombinant-DNA Plant Material in Food
(ftp://ftp.fao.org/codex/Alinorm08/al3103Ae.pdf)). Japan played a very constructive role in setting the
guidelines by hosting meetings and facilitating discussions among Codex members. However, Japan
does not fully apply this internationally-recognized approach to its own LLP policies. This is especially
evident in MHLW?s policies, where the Codex Annex allows for more than a ?zero? tolerance.
Until August 31, 2009, biotech labeling was handled by MAFF and MHLW under the Food Sanitation
Law and the Japan Agricultural Standards (JAS) Law, respectively. Although the labeling requirements
for the Ministries are listed separately, both sets of requirements are basically identical. When the
Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA) was established in September of 2009, food labeling issues, including
biotech labeling, were transferred to over to this new agency. However, this transfer did not change the
GOJ?s biotech labeling policies, which are available in English at
(http://www.maff.go.jp/e/jas/labeling/modified.html). The information is available at MAFF?s website
as JAS is under MAFF?s authority even the actual regulation is practiced by CAA.
In Japan, three types of biotech claims may be made on food labels; Non-GMO, GMO, and non-
segregated. To make labeling claims about foods or ingredients in the first category, the commodities
must be handled under an identity preservation system and segregated. All ?GMO? products must be
labeled. Products in the ?non-segregated? category are assumed to be primarily from biotech varieties.
Manufacturers using non-segregated ingredients in processed products in many instances are not
required to label under Japanese rules, but may do so voluntarily.
Biotech labeling schemes for non-biotech products are based on IP handling of non-biotech ingredients
from production to final processing. Suppliers and distributors are responsible for supplying IP
certification to exporters, who in turn supply certification to Japan?s food importers or manufacturers.
The English version of the manuals for the IP handling of corn and soybeans, are available from
MAFF?s website (http://www.maff.go.jp/e/jas/labeling/pdf/modi03.pdf).
As shown below, the 32 foods currently subject to JAS labeling requirements (and CAA labeling
requirements) were selected because they are made from ingredients that could include biotech products
and because traces of introduced DNA or protein can be identified in the foods. Generally, if the
weight content of the ingredient to be labeled in these 32 foods exceeds 5 percent* of total weight of the
foods, or is one of the top three ingredients by weight, they must be labeled with either the phrase
"Biotech Ingredients Used" or "Biotech Ingredient Not Segregated" if the raw ingredient does not
accompany certificates of IP handling. In order to be labeled "Non-Biotech," the processor must be
able to show that the ingredient to be labeled was IP handled from production through processing.
Items subject to labeling Ingredient to be labeled
1. Tofu (soybean curd) and fried tofu Soybean
2. Dried soybean curd, soybean refuse, yuba Soybean
3. Natto (fermented soybean) Soybean
4. To-nyu (soy milk) Soybean
5. Miso (soybean paste) Soybean
6. Cooked soybean Soybean
7. Canned soybean, bottled soybean Soybean
8. Kinako (roasted soybean flour) Soybean
9. Roasted soybean Soybean
10. Item containing food of items 1 to 9 as a main ingredient Soybean
11. Item containing soybean (for cooking) as a main ingredient Soybean
12. Item containing soybean flour as a main ingredient Soybean
13. Item containing soybean protein as a main ingredient Soybean
14. Item containing edamame (green soybean) as a main ingredient Edamame
15. Item containing soybean sprouts as a main ingredient Soybean sprouts
16. Corn snacks Corn
17. Corn starch Corn
18. Popcorn Corn
19. Frozen corn Corn
20. Canned or bottled corn Corn
21. Item containing corn flour as a main ingredient Corn
22. Item containing corn grits as a main ingredient Corn
23. Item containing corn (for processing) as a main ingredient Corn
24. Item containing food of items 16 to 20 as a main ingredient Corn
25. Frozen potato Potato
26. Dried potato Potato
27. Potato starch Potato
28. Potato snacks Potato
29. Item containing food of items 25 to 28 as a main ingredient Potato
30. Item containing potato (for processing) as a main ingredient Potato
31. Item containing alfalfa as a main ingredient Alfalfa
32. Item containing sugar beet (for processing) as a main ingredient Sugar beet
In addition to the 32 food items in the table, Japan applies biotech labeling requirements to high oleic
acid soybean products, even though the oil extracted from the soybean does not contain traces of the
introduced genes or proteins. Also, Rainbow papaya 55-1 is expected for full approval in second half
of CY2011 and ?Item containing papaya as a main ingredient? will be added to #33.
The use of inappropriate, inaccurate, or misleading food labels is a major concern in Japan. As an
example, in December 2008, MAFF ordered a bean trader in Fukuoka to stop using the ?Non-GMO?
label on red kidney and adzuki beans. This label was deemed a violation of the Japan Agricultural
Standards Law because there is currently no commercial production of biotech adzuki and red kidney
*?5 percent rule? for non-biotech labeling
For the purpose detecting biotech events in food products, the GOJ has been using the qPCR test.
However, this method may not be the most accurate, as it detects and quantifies biotech specific regions
(e.g., 35S promoter, NOS terminator) in a single event with multiple promoters. As the use of stacked
events in corn production is increasingly important for the management against pest pressure, there has
been an increasing concern that non-GM corn being exported to Japan could be tested and mistakenly
judged as ?biotech? or ?not-segregated? if the test result indicates more than 5% of biotech grains in the
On August 3, 2009, MHLW announced a new standard and specification of grain testing for bulk
products (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/topics/yunyu/hassyutu/2009/index.html). With the new procedure,
imported grains will be initially tested by the conventional method. If the result from the conventional
method indicates that the shipment contains more than 5% of biotech grain in a non-biotech shipment, a
new test based on single grain will be performed. In this test 90 grains will be used and each grain will
be tested individually. This new methodology enables the judgment of biotech or non-biotech for each
grain, regardless of whether it is non-biotech, incorporates a single biotech event, or is a stacked biotech
event. If the results demonstrate that two or less out of 90 grains are biotech varieties, the shipment will
be considered ?non-biotech? because it would contain less than 5% of biotech as bulk. If the test results
in three to nine grains being biotech varieties, a second single-grain-based test will be run with a new
set of 90 grains. If the sum of biotech grains from first and second run is nine or less out of 180 tested
grains (i.e., sum of two tests), the shipment will be considered ?non-biotech?. If the number of biotech
positive grains from first single-grain-based test is 10 or more (10 out of 90), the shipment will be
judged as non-segregated grains. If the number of biotech positive grain from first and second single-
grain-based test is 10 or more (10 out of 180), the shipment will also be considered to be non-
segregated grains. This new testing methodology was officially introduced on November 12, 2009
In 2004, Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) conducted a survey for the labeling of eggs. A growing
number of egg suppliers have started using labeling that make aesthetic or safety claims. After the
survey, JFTC found that labeling such as, ?No GMO corn or soymeal is used? and ?clean feed - without
postharvest pesticides in main feed ingredients? are misleading consumes about adherence to higher
standards and/or actual quality. As a result, JFTC issued recommendations to suppliers about the use of
appropriate and objective labeling.
Figure;Example of an egg carton label claiming no biotech feeds were used. (USDA/Tokyo Photo)
Local Government Regulations
There are a number of local rules r